Book #3 of my Crime Fiction September, Madhulika Liddle’s The Englishman’s Cameo has everything that an awesome crime fiction requires. A string of crooked characters, a mystical background theme and a plot so twisted that keeps you hooked till the end of the book. These 250 pages or so unfolded a new chapter of Mughal Era for me, where a nobleman cum detective is constantly at work to catch the real culprit.
The Englishman’s Cameo follows the story of Muzaffar Jang, an aristocrat whose friend, Faisal is in jail for the murder of merchant Mirza Murad Begh. Jang is not convinced of his friend’s conviction, so he decides to track the murderer himself. The Englishman’s Cameo then pulls you into a time warp, where you meet exotic courtesan Mehtab Banu and her step-sister Gulnar. Mehtab Banu was the last person who saw Murad Begh before he was murdered. Then there is Chief Eunuch Nusrat, a conniving and a loyal servant of departed Murad Begh, the bodyguard Shahbaaz, who accompanied Murad Begh everywhere, except the time when he was facing his death.
Then there is another complication which is being faced by Jang, an Englishman, who somehow creeps into the picture, making the situation even more deliciously twisted. Now Jang needs to figure out who is behind the murder of Murad Begh, and what was the motive before people start getting killed, dropping down like dominoes chips.
In the background of Englishman’s Cameo, you learn about the rebellious child, Aurangzeb and failing health of his father, Shahjahan. The tumbling Mughal Empire, living on the last of its riches and fighting off enemies within the home. Extensive research and intelligent storytelling skills of Madhulika Liddle have merged both the concepts into an intriguing story that you cannot keep down until the end.
The Englishman’s Cameo has now introduced me to a new hero of crime fiction, Muzaffar Jang, The coffee loving detective is persistent in his approach and quick in his skills. He knows where to look for facts and doesn’t miss out on any leads, and that’s what makes him a commendable detective. A man, I think charmingly too practical and forward for his era. In a conversation with his friend Salim, Jang says
”Just because I haven’t married yet doesn’t mean I avoid women,” Muzaffar replied. ”Shouldn’t there be a difference between a woman one simply uses for pleasure, and a woman one has to spend the rest of one’s life with? A wife shouldn’t just be a pretty little ornament to amuse a man. There should be more: there should be substance.”
But it’s not just Jang who made this novel interesting for me. The beautiful description of Shahjahan’s quaint Delhi will make you fall in love with the city again. From the moonlit banks of Yamuna to Bazaar’s of Chandani Chowk around the glorious red fort, Liddle has covered everything about mystical Delhi.
The most striking thing that made me pick up The Englishman’s Cameo was the concept, a detective in Mughal Era. The idea is very refreshing for me, someone who has read a lot of books on Mughal Era. And now, Muzaffar Jang comes on top of my list of fictional detectives. Very gracefully, Madhulika Liddle mixed two genres into one in the Englishman’s Cameo- One Historical Fiction and one Murder Mystery
After this deliciously twisted concoction of The Englishman’s Cameo, I can’t wait to devour into the other two books in Jang series. As for other readers, if you are a crime fiction fan, you make sure to pick this series. Otherwise, you are missing out on something really awesome!